Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims - We Are The Mighty
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Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)


On December 2, 2015 Air Force Captain Costas Dracopoulous was on leave in Kyoto, Japan when he got word of the San Bernardino shooting that killed 14 people and wounded 22 others. The news got his attention, not just due to the scale of the tragedy, but because San Bernardino is his home town.

And it was even more personal than he originally thought.  When he logged on Facebook he saw messages that a friend of his was among the victims of the shooting.  The friend was also a father of six.

Dracopoulous, who’s currently serving as the flight safety officer for the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron, wanted to do something for his friend’s children along with all the other children left without parents as a result of the senseless tragedy.  After consulting with a chaplain and the Red Cross, he decided the best way to help from afar was to hold a toy drive back at the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa.

While most servicemen overseas are usually the recipients of care packages from home, Dracopoulous was asking the 961st squadron to help pack one going the other way, and a pretty big one at that.

His fellow airmen answered the call. Within a matter of days, they rounded up over 50 toys for the victim’s children. Before shipping, he coordinated with the local police and mayor’s office of San Bernardino to ensure the items would be delivered to the right homes.

“He is an amazing warrior. ” said Air Force Lt. Col. Kyle Anderson, 961st AACS commander. “He has the idea and ideals to push forward and take care of the folks that the tragedy affected.”

“I’m ecstatic that our 961st family supported him, and it also bodes well for the squadron for one of our own to put on an event like that,” Anderson said. “We live in a small world and it shows how a tragedy stateside can affect service members over here.”

In a letter expressing gratitude to Dracopoulous and his squadron, Carey Davis – mayor of San Bernadino wrote the following:

I am proud of the united manner by which our nation has responded to the tragic events that forever impacted several lives. Your willing and generous response to the crisis and your selflessness are greatly appreciated. Thank you for going out of your way and facilitating the process between my staff and your squadron. San Bernardino is fortunate to have the support of individuals like you and your base. Once again, please accept my sincere and personal thanks. Your generosity and your willingness to give have significantly impacted the morale of our staff and community.
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The F-22 production line debate continues

When the F-22 Raptor production line ceased in 2011, Air Force Lt. Col. Daniel thought the Pentagon had made a huge mistake.


He was driving in his car in 2009 when he found out “the Raptor fleet is done at 187, and I remember thinking, ‘This is not great.’ I thought it was an error.”

Because, “more is better than less, right?” said the F-22 pilot of the 95th Fighter Squadron. He spoke to Military.com on the condition that his last name not be used, due to safety concerns amid ongoing air operations against the Islamic State.

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims
A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor flying on January 27 (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

Military.com recently sat down with a few pilots and a maintainer at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, as part of a trip to observe fifth-generation F-22s flying with fourth-generation F/A-18 Hornets for training.

The Air Force originally wanted at least 381 Raptors. Had the service acquired that many of the stealthy twin-engine fighters from Lockheed Martin Corp., life nowadays might be somewhat less hectic for the service members who fly and maintain them.

More of the F-22 fleet could “mitigate [operations] tempo, and we’re always on the road so if we had more Raptors, there’d be more Raptor squadrons, more Raptor maintainers that would mitigate some training and operational demands,” Daniel said.

Lt. Col. Ben of the 325th Operations Group agreed.

“That’s exactly right,” he said. “But these decisions are above my pay grade.”

Daniel added, “Of course, there’s a huge cost with that.”

He’s right. Indeed, cost was the driving factor behind then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ decision to push for the Pentagon to prematurely stop buying the aircraft.

$20 Billion Restart

According to a 2010 RAND study, to restart the F-22 production line to build 75 more of the jets would cost about $20 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars.

To build a new Raptor — not a 1990s version — “you’re not building the same airplane you were building before, and it becomes a much more expensive proposition,” a defense analyst in Washington, D.C. told Military.com on background on Thursday.

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims
F-22 image via John Dibbs of Lockheed Martin.

“So do you build a new ‘old’ F-22, or do you build an improved one?” the analyst said.

And that figure is a rough estimate to restart a marginal lot of planes. It doesn’t take into account the cost of hiring workers, integrating newer stealth technologies, or training and equipping additional pilots.

Preparing Raptor pilots to fly from the nest takes time, too.

“To make a really good F-22 pilot, I need about seven to eight years to get him to where he is fully employing a jet and can actually quarterback the whole fight,” Daniel said.

But as the Air Force weighs retiring its F-15C/D fleet sometime in the mid-2020s (though lawmakers in Congress will have a say in the matter), many defense experts question how the service plans to maintain its air superiority. For example, will the F-22 eventually take over the role of the F-15 Eagle? If so, will Raptor pilots be more in demand than ever?

F-16s Instead of F-22s?

The questions aren’t abstract. Both the active-duty component and Air National Guard are considering retiring the Boeing-made Eagle, service officials told the House Armed Services Subcommittee during a hearing on Wednesday. The F-16 Fighting Falcon could take over missions from the F-15, they said.

Rep. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican and former Air Force officer who flew the A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack aircraft, said “prior to the F-22, [the F-15] was the best at air-to-air.” The F-16, a fixed-wing, single-engine, fourth-generation platform, “doesn’t bring the same capability,” she said.

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims
An F-16 Fighting Falcon releases a flare. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian J. Valencia)

The reference by Air Force officials to F-16 rather than F-22 during the hearing also caught the analyst by surprise.

“Why didn’t the Air Force say F-22 restart?” he said during a telephone interview. “Why did they leak that they’re looking to replace it with F-16s instead of using it as a case to examine F-22 restart?”

One reason might be because the Senate hasn’t yet confirmed Heather Wilson, a former Congresswoman nominated by President Donald Trump, to become the next Air Force Secretary, the analyst said. Until she’s confirmed, “the Air Force is worried about making any major decisions,” he said.

Another reason might be because Air Force leaders have zero interest in restarting the F-22 production line. The reference to F-16 may suggest “this is the end for F-22 restart story — not the beginning of it,” he said.

Upgrades Coming

Earlier this week, officials at Lockheed — which produces the F-16 and F-22 — told DefenseOne it plans to move the F-16 production line to South Carolina from Fort Worth, Texas, where it built the single-engine fighters for more than 40 years.

As of Sept. 30, the Air Force had 949 Fighting Falcons, according to Air Force inventory figures obtained by Military.com.

By comparison, the service has less than half as many Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles. The F-15 inventory totals 456 aircraft and is split almost evenly between the two variants, with 236 of the older Eagles, including 212 one-seat F-15C models and 24 two-seat F-16D models, according to the service data.

“F-15C/D is just one job,” the analyst said of the all-weather, tactical fighter. “The Air Force is going to make the same argument it made on the A-10, which is, ‘As we look around the Air Force to save money, we’re going to retire things that have one job.’

“The F-16 is multi-role … and the F-16 has grown significantly since it was just a little squirt under the F-15’s wing,” he said.

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims
A formation of U.S. Air Force aircraft (F-16, F-15C and F-15E) fly over Kuwaiti oil fires, set by the retreating Iraqi army during Operation Desert Storm. (U.S. Air Force photo)

For example, in December, Raytheon Co. was awarded a contract to upgrade the F-16 computer system as part of the Modular Mission Computer Upgrade, which features “more than two times the current processing power and 40 times the current memory, equipping USAF pilots with near-fifth-generation aircraft computing power,” the company said in a release at the time.

Just this past week, the Air Force announced the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California has begun testing F-16s equipped with Northrop Grumman’s APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar, a fifth-generation Active Electronically Scanned Array fire-control radar.

“It is intended to replace currently used APG-66 and APG-68 radars and provide the F-16 with advanced capabilities similar to fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II,” the service said in a release.

The Air Force claims it has the capacity in the F-16C community “to recapitalize … radar to serve the same function as the F-15 has done and thereby reduce the different systems that we have to sustain and operate, so that makes it more efficient,” said Maj. Gen. Scott D. West, director of current operations and the service’s deputy chief of staff for operations at the Pentagon.

The effort will help minimize the number of systems pilots operate, West said during the hearing on Capitol Hill.

As for the Eagle, Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Scott Rice told Military.com that any planned upgrades will be fulfilled. However, the Air Force may want to look at the next block of upgrades to save on future sustainment and operational costs, he said.

Rice said he believes the Air Force is getting beyond comparing aircraft platforms, “especially in the digital age” when looking at the platforms as systems and “how they integrate is as important and, in the future, will be even more important than the platform itself,” he said.

The F-16 is a “less capable dogfighter than the F-15,” the analyst added, “but at the same time the question is, ‘How realistic is it that you’re going to have a single F-16 without any help'” from other fighter jets? “That’s not how we plan to fly,” he said.

A Magical Airframe?

Last year, the House Armed Services Air and Land Forces subcommittee tasked the Air Force to issue a study of what it would take to get the F-22 line up and running again.

Whether the official study has been completed, “preliminary assessment showed it was cost prohibitive to reopen the F-22 line,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Military.com on Thursday, in line with RAND’s study.

Even so, Lockheed is offering advice on what it would take to do so, said John Cottam, F-22 program deputy for the company in Fort Worth.

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims
An F-22 deploys flares. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“They have come to us and have asked us for inputs into that study, so we have been working very hard with them, in concert with them to provide that data,” he said last month. “With this new administration, they have priorities that are putting Americans back to work and making America strong, so we believe that what the Air Force provides could very easily resonate with the administration’s policies.”

Cottam added, “As time goes on, if the report isn’t delivered [to Congress], we can then keep delivering our responses and making it more and more refined.”

Meanwhile, Raptor pilots can’t help but wonder if newly minted aircraft will again come off the production line.

In any exercise, pilots show up the first couple of days, “integrate with other platforms — everyone’s trying to learn,” Daniel said. “By the end of the first week, everybody realized we need about 30 more F-22s in the lane because as soon as the F-22s leave, people start to die in the air-to-air fight.”

Daniel said, “It’s always disappointing that we don’t have more, or don’t have more missiles, more gas — it’s always frustrating as an F-22 pilot when you hear, ‘Bingo, bingo,’ and you’re out of missiles and you go home and you start hearing other planes getting shot down.”

The stealth, the speed, the “unfair amount of information the jet provides to us … .it’s magic,” he said.

Even with oncoming upgrades to the F-16, many fighter pilots and others question whether a fourth-generation fighter will — or could — ever step up to such a role.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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Army Reserve captain killed in mass shooting at Orlando nightclub

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims
Antonio Davon Brown, a 29-year-old captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, was one of 49 people who was killed in the shooting. | Photo courtesy Texas AM University


A U.S. Army Reserve officer was among those killed in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Antonio Davon Brown, 29, was a captain in the Army Reserve and slain in the attack Sunday at an Orlando nightclub, Cynthia Smith, a spokeswoman at the Defense Department, confirmed in an interview with Military.com.

The Pentagon plans to release more details about Brown’s service record on Tuesday, according to Smith.

Brown was a member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) while a student at Florida AM University.

“We are especially saddened by the news that one of the victims was part of the FAMU family,” the university said in a statement.

“29-year-old Antonio Davon Brown was a criminal justice major from Cocoa Beach, Florida and a member of ROTC during his time on the Hill. He graduated from FAMU in 2008 and is being remembered fondly by classmates and fellow alumni on social media. We will continue to update you about plans for a memorial or service of remembrance for alumnus Brown,” it said.

“In the meantime, the Florida AM University community stands with the entire Orlando community in the wake of tragedy,” the university said. “Our thoughts, and prayers for peace, are with everyone in central Florida and across this nation.”

The gunman was identified as Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen and Muslim who lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, and whose parents were of Afghan origin. While he was apparently acting alone, he had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

The incident was the deadliest mass shooting in American history, with at least 50 individuals confirmed dead, including the gunman, who was killed in a shootout with police, and another 53 injured. Several remain critically injured.

The shooting began around 2 a.m. Sunday morning at a packed Orlando nightclub called Pulse, which caters to the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender, or LBGT, community and lasted until around 5 a.m., when a SWAT team raided the building.

The shooting is also the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, when al-Qaeda militants crashed airliners into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people.

One Twitter user said she and Brown served in the same ROTC class and that he served tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I can hardly breathe,” she tweeted. “I never thought any one of us from Class of 08 would die young. We all came back from war safely.

“He killed my friend, my battle buddy,” she said of the shooter. “CPT Antonio Brown survived Iraq and Afghanistan to die like this.”

She went on to describe an incident during her senior year. After she was unsuspectingly dropped from her parents’ health insurance, she got sick with the flu and passed out during class. Brown and his roommate carried her to his car and drove her four hours from Tallahassee to Fort Stewart, Georgia, so she could receive treatment from the Army.

“Antonio saved my life when no one else could be bothered to care,” she said.

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The only Native American general in the Civil War wore gray

According to a pair of memos produced in during Theodore Roosevelt’s administration, the Union and the Confederacy combined for roughly one thousand generals during the Civil War. Of those hundreds of generals, only one was a Native American — and he fought for the South.


Brigadier General Stand Watie isn’t that well-known, mostly because he was fighting in what the Confederates called the Trans-Mississippi Department. This region did not see battles on the scale of Antietam, Gettysburg, or Shiloh. Instead, the Civil War was more a collection of raids or guerilla warfare – and it wasn’t always the nicest of affairs.

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims
Battle of Pea Ridge (Library of Congress)

Stand Watie was familiar with violence. As a major leader of the Cherokee Nation, he had seen family members killed and had himself been attacked in the aftermath of the removal of the Cherokee to Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. Many of the Cherokee owned slaves, and took them west during that removal. This lead a majority of the Cherokee to support the Confederacy when the Civil War started.

The Oklahoma Historical Society notes that Stand Watie was commissioned as a colonel in the Confederate Army after he had raised a cavalry regiment. He was involved in a number of actions, including the Battle of Pea Ridge.

The Cherokee soon were divided in the Civil War, and a number began defecting to the Union. Watie and his forces were involved in actions against pro-Union Cherokee. Watie was promoted to brigadier general, and his command would encompass two regiments of cavalry as well as some sub-regimental infantry units. His best known action was the capture of the Union vessel J. R. Williams in 1864 and the Second Battle of Cabin Creek.

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims
Map of the Cabin Creek battlefield. (Graphic from Wikimedia Commons)

By today’s standards, his unit also committed some grave war crimes, including the massacre of Union troops from the First Colored Kansas Infantry and the Second Kansas Cavalry regiments in September 1864.

Watie would later be given command of the Indian Division in Indian Territory, but never mounted any operations. By 1865, he would release his troops. He would be the last Confederate general to surrender his forces, doing so on June 23, 1865. After the war, Watie tried to operate a tobacco factory, but it was seized in a dispute over taxes.

He died in 1871.

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1st Cav soldiers among 4 Americans killed in Afghanistan

The U.S. Defense Department on Monday identified the two soldiers killed last week by a suicide bomber at the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan as from the 1st Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood, Texas.


Army Sgt. John W. Perry, 30, of Stockton, California, and Pfc. Tyler R. Iubelt, 20, of Tamaroa, Illinois, were killed Nov. 12 at the airfield north of the capital, Kabul. The soldiers were assigned to Headdquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, the statement said.

Also read: The US lost 6 elite Green Berets in a 72-hour span last week

Two American contractors also were killed in the blast and 16 other U.S. service members and a Polish service member were injured.

The attacker was a former Taliban militant who had joined the peace process in 2008 and had since taken a job at the base, Bagram District Governor Haji Abdul Shokor Qudosi told ABC News on Sunday.

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims
Airmen patrol the flightline perimeter at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, last June. | US Air Force photo by Justyn Freeman

About 14,000 Americans, including service members and contractors, are based at Bagram. The base was closed to Afghan workers immediately following the attack and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul also closed for business.

The attack occurred while U.S. service members at the base were preparing for a five-kilometer race as part of Veterans Day events.

A later statement from Fort Hood said that Perry joined the Army on Jan. 31, 2008, as a Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment (TMDE) maintenance support specialist. He had been assigned to 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade since Aug. 21, 2014.

Perry was on his second tour in Afghanistan. He deployed to Afghanistan when the U.S. involvement there was called Operation Enduring Freedom from August 2010 to July 2011. He deployed in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in September 2016.

Perry’s awards and decorations included the Purple Heart Medal, Bronze Star, three Army Commendation Medals, one Army Achievement Medal, two Army Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, and Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two campaign stars.

He also had received the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, three Overseas Service Ribbons, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal, Combat Action Badge and Driver’s and Mechanic Badge.

Iubelt had been in the Army less than a year, the statement said. He entered the Army on Nov. 23, 2015, as a motor transport operator and had been assigned to 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade since May 6, 2016. He deployed to Afghanistan in September.

Iubelt’s awards and decorations include the Purple Heart Medal, Bronze Star, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with campaign star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon and Combat Action Badge.

Perry and Iubelt were among about 500 1st Cavalry Division soldiers who deployed to Afghanistan in the late summer of this year in a regular rotation of troops to help train the Afghan military.

The deploying soldiers were part of the Fort Hood division’s headquarters and its sustainment brigade headquarters, Lt. Col. Sunset Belinsky, the 1st Cavalry Division’s division’s spokeswoman, said at the time. They deployed to Bagram Airfield to replace the 10th Mountain Division headquarters, which had served as the planning leader for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan since November of 2015.

The deployment in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel was expected to last about 12 months, Belinsky said. Operation Freedom’s Sentinel is the United States’ continuing mission to train and advise the Afghan National Security Forces in their fight against the Taliban and other insurgent networks.

Maj. Gen. John C. Thomson III, who took command of the 1st Cavalry Division last January, was leading the deployment, taking over duties as the U.S. deputy commanding general for support in Afghanistan.

The deaths of Perry and Iubelt were the second and third in combat for the 1st Cavalry Division in recent weeks. On Oct. 20, Sgt. Douglas J. Riney, 26, of Fairview, Illinois, died in Kabul of wounds received from what was suspected to be an “insider attack” by an individual wearing an Afghan army uniform. American contractor Michael G. Sauro, 40, of McAlester, Oklahoma, also was killed in the incident.

Riney and Sauro had been on a mission for the Afghan Defense Ministry when they drove up to the entry point at an Ammunition Supply Point on the outskirts of Kabul, Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the NATO Resolute Support mission, said in a briefing to the Pentagon late last month.

“They had not started the inspection” when a man wearing an Afghan army uniform opened fire, Cleveland said. The gunman was shot dead by Afghan security.

Cleveland said the U.S. could not confirm that the incident was an insider, or “green-on-blue,” attack since the Afghans had yet to identify the gunman.

Riney entered active-duty service in July 2012 as a petroleum supply specialist, the military said. He had been assigned to the Support Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas, since December 2012.

Riney was on his second tour to Afghanistan. His awards and decorations included the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal.

Sauro was assigned to the Defense Ammunition Center, McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, in Oklahoma, the Defense Department said. He traveled to Afghanistan in September for his third deployment and was scheduled to return to the U.S. in March.

A U.S. soldier and two other U.S. civilians employed by the Defense Ammunition Center were injured in the incident. The soldier was reported in stable condition at the time. Civilian Richard “Rick” Alford was in stable condition and civilian Rodney Henderson suffered minor injuries, the center said, adding that they will both return to the U.S., The Associated Press reported.

The attack came as the U.S. was proceeding with President Barack Obama’s plan to draw down the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from the current number of about 9,500 to 8,400 by the end of this year.

The drawdown was taking place as the U.S. considers its troop and monetary support under the administration of President-elect Donald Trump for Afghanistan, where the U.S. has been at war for 15 years.

Afghanistan policy was not a main topic of debate between Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the campaign.

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12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms

Stolen valor, Hollywood-style!


Blame the stylist, blame the director, but don’t hate the player, hate the game. Here are 12 cringeworthy photos that will make you want to knifehand these celebrities:

1. 50 Cent

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims

Attention on deck for General Admiral Gunnery Sergeant Cent.

2. Adrianne Curry

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims

As much as we love the self-proclaimed “Mistress of the Dorks,” maybe she should stick to cosplaying as an Imperial Officer instead. She was much more squared away.

3. Jake Lacy

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims

This is a Hollywood military fail. Jake Lacy and the costume designer from 2015’s “Love the Coopers” should put out a YouTube video where a drill instructor smokes both of them for the popped collar he wears the whole time.

4. The cast of Enlisted (minus Keith David)

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims

Look at this. Look at this. Keith David is military movie royalty (“Platoon,” hello?), so it’s little surprise that he knows how to wear an Army uniform. But if he were really the sergeant major he was supposed to be, this photo would feature him tearing new a**holes into the other four for the thousands of problems here.

5. Amber Rose

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims

Shitty job rolling those BDU sleeves, but at least she tried to crease them. Nails probably not reg, but the only person who would really care is Kanye West.

6. Jeremy Renner

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims

Jeremy Renner has ruined everything from “The Avengers” to Jason Bourne, and here he is ruining the Army Combat Uniform. Forget for a moment that the ACU didn’t exist when “The Hurt Locker” was supposed to be taking place (realism!), ACU sleeves are rolled approximately never and if they were, they sure as hell wouldn’t have the sea service roll. Also, unless he runs into a fight backwards, pretty sure that U.S. flag is as ass backward as that movie.

7. Samuel L. Jackson

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims

It’s easy to make fun of “Basic.” The most prominent reason is because of Samuel L. Jackson’s standard-issue cape. A goddam cape. There is no better example of what a civilian thinks the military would wear than giving someone a cape. The worst (best?) part of “Basic” is that it implies basic training, the one place where we all learned this.

8. Shia LeBeouf

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims

Ah yes, America’s most famous Valor Thief. The backpack is actually common among civilians, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone wearing it with ACU pants. And even harder pressed to find someone wearing that combo bloused with Desert Combat Boots.

9. Steven Seagal

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims

Watching this salute is almost as awkward as watching Seagal run.

10. Jessica Simpson

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims

WATM’s Logan Nye says the collar is only authorized to be worn this way when a soldier is wearing body armor, but even then it makes you look like an a**hole. The fact that everyone in the unit is wearing it up makes the commander look like an a**hole.

Also, that hair is not authorized in uniform.

11. Channing Tatum

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims

To the untrained (or Air Force) eye, Army uniforms always look like a random mishmash of metal and ribbon. Tatum is mostly okay but needs to decide if he’s infantry or special forces.

12. Bill Cosby

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims

The only thing really wrong with this uniform is the guy wearing it. (And he’s not an honorary chief anymore.)

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How that Iranian missile strike into Syria turned out to be a massive failure

Iran’s missile strike on the Islamic State on June 18 appears to have been a massive failure, after only two of the seven missiles fired actually hit their targets.


Two of the Zolfaqar short-range missiles missed their targets in Syria by several miles, while three others did not even make it out of Iraqi airspace, according to Haaretz. Despite the apparent failures, Iranian state-affiliated media heralded the attacks as a success, referring to them as a “new and major” stage in the country’s fight against ISIS.

The strike was “a great deal less impressive than the media noise being made in Iran around the launch,” Israeli military sources told Haaretz.

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims
The launching of an Iranian Fateh-110 Missile. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Iranian legislators claimed the strike was also a sign to the US that Iran’s ballistic missile program will not be deterred by sanctions.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a radical paramilitary wing, claimed it conducted the strikes in response to ISIS’s attack in Tehran earlier this month.

Iran’s larger, longer-range missiles have struggled with accuracy problems in the past, as many lack global positioning satellite receivers. The Zolfaqar missiles, a derivative of the Fateh-110 heavy artillery rocket, were fired from Iran’s western provinces, likely in an effort to maximize range and accuracy. June 18th’s strike was the first use of the missiles in combat, meaning it could have been as much a test as anything else. Iran has a large and diverse ballistic missile arsenal with weapons that comparatively more developed than the Zolfaqar.

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Bill requiring women to register for the draft passes Senate

Airman steps up to help the families of San Bernardino shooting victims
A Marine Corps drill Instructor commands a recruit to run in place during a function in Van Nuys, California, on March 12, 2016. Marine Corps photo by Alicia R. Leaders


A provision that would require women to register for the military draft alongside men for the first time in American history was included as part of the massive 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that passed the Senate handily on Tuesday with an 85-13 vote.

The language requiring the draft for women was added in committee and received little debate on the Senate floor, but has created a firestorm of controversy on and off Capitol Hill. It comes as the military services welcome women into previously closed ground combat units in keeping with a mandate from Defense Secretary Ash Carter given late last year.

On Feb. 2, a panel of top military leaders including Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, and Navy Secretary Ray Mabusall told the Senate Armed Services Committee they supported drafting men and women in light of the changes to combat assignments.

“It is my personal view that based on this lifting of restriction for assigning [job specialties], that every American that is physically qualified should register for the draft,” Neller said at the time.

In the House, which previously passed its version of the NDAA, an amendment requiring women to register for the draft passed narrowly with a 32-30 vote, even though its author, California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, voted against it.

“I’ve talked to coffeehouse liberals in San Francisco and conservative families who pray three times a day,” Hunter said April 27, as the House Armed Services Committee marked up the bill. “Neither of them want their daughter to be drafted.”

The Senate proposal was hotly debated on the floor June 7 by Republicans Ted Cruz, from Texas, and John McCain, from Arizona.

Cruz complained that the provision including women in the draft entered the bill through committee, rather than in public, open debate.

“I’m the father of two daughters. Women can do anything they set their mind to, and I see that each and every day,” Cruz said. “The idea that we should forcibly conscript young girls in combat to my mind makes little or no sense. It is at minimum a radical proposition. I could not vote for a bill that did so without public debate.”

McCain countered that including women in the draft was a matter of equality.

“Women who I have spoken to in the military overwhelmingly believe that women are not only qualified, but are on the same basis as their male counterparts,” McCain said. “Every leader of the United States military seems to have a different opinion from [Cruz], whose military background is not extensive.”

Currently, U.S. law requires most male citizens and immigrants between the ages of 18 to 25 to register in the selective service system. The Senate NDAA would require all female citizens and U.S. residents who turn 18 on or after Jan. 1, 2018, to register as well.

Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah introduced an amendment that would have removed the draft language from the bill, but it was unsuccessful. Another Republican, Rand Paul of Kentucky, filed an amendment that would have gotten rid of the draft altogether, but it too failed to get traction.

The House and Senate must now reconcile their versions of the NDAA in conference before final passage.

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US launches practice bombing runs along North Korean border

The US military dispatched several powerful strategic military assets to the Korean Peninsula Aug. 31 in a “show of force.”


Two Air Force B-1B Lancers from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and four Marine Corp F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from US Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan drilled alongside four South Korean F-15 fighters, practicing bombing North Korea’s core facilities, according to US Pacific Command.

The B-1 carries the largest conventional payload of any Air Force bomber, and the F-35 is one of America’s top stealth fighters.

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Republic of Korea F-15K fighters drop munitions over Pilsung Range during operations alongside US F-35B stealth fighters and B-1B Lancer bombers. Photo by Republic of Korea Air Force.

“North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners, and homeland, and their destabilizing actions will be met accordingly,” General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Commander, US Pacific Air Forces, said in a statement. “This complex mission clearly demonstrates our solidarity with our allies and underscores the broadening cooperation to defend against this common regional threat. Our forward-deployed force will be the first to the fight, ready to deliver a lethal response at a moment’s notice if our nation calls.”

The display of allied military power comes just days after North Korea launched three short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea/Sea of Japan and fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan, raising alarms. North Korea called the second launch a “meaningful prelude to containing Guam,” a reference to its early warnings of possible strikes around the Pacific territory.

The US has sent B-1B bombers ripping across the peninsula before, typically after major provocations by the North. While these aircraft are no longer nuclear-capable, as the necessary components were removed years ago, North Korea often refers to these aircraft as “nuclear strategic bombers,” and they make North Korea extremely uncomfortable.

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Weapons dropped from US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers and U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II practicing attack capabilities impact the Pilsung Range, Republic of Korea, Aug. 30, 2017. Photo by Republic of Korea Air Force.

The North perceives Guam as a forward base for a preemptive/preventative strike on its territory, so for Pyongyang, bomber overflights are disconcerting. North Korea actually cited the B-1B Lancer flights over the Peninsula as one of the reasons it plans to fire missiles around Guam in its own display of power. North Korea revealed earlier this month it is considering launching a salvo of four Hwasong-12 IRBMs into waters around Guam to send a message to President Donald Trump.

The Trump administration has been pursuing a policy of “maximum pressure and engagement,” which involves using economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure to bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table for a diplomatic solution. Trump, however, said Aug. 30 that “talking is not the answer” with North Korea, while stressing that “all options are on the table.”

Secretary of State James Mattis later said, “We’re never out of diplomatic solutions.”

US policy is unclear as the Trump administration confronts a problem that has puzzled presidents for decades and is now more complex and dangerous than ever, given that two decades of failed North Korea policy have allowed the reclusive regime to develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them to distant targets in South Korea, Japan, and even the continental US.

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Trijicon got in trouble for putting bible verses on their scopes

Trijicon is one of the premiere optics manufacturers for the U.S. military. Its magnified rifle optic, the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, is the official medium-distance engagement optic of the U.S. Marine Corps and Special Operations Forces. However, the company found itself in hot water for placing bible verses on optics sold to the military.

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Marines in Fallujah with Trijicon ACOGs atop their M16A4 rifles (U.S. Marine Corps)

Founded by South African and devout Christian Glyn Bindon, Trijicon was originally founded as Armson USA in 1981. The company was the sole U.S. importer and distributor of the Armson OEG. Manufactured in South Africa, the Armson OEG was an occluded-type gunsight. It used tritium and fiber optics to illuminate its reticle. In 1985, Bindon reorganized the company as Trijicon and began manufacturing night sights for pistols. Two years later, Trijicon introduced the ACOG for use by the U.S. military.

The ACOGs were widely distributed across the military. It wasn’t until 2010 that ABC News reported on the placement of Bible verses in the serial numbers of sights sold to the U.S. military. Bindon, who was killed in a plane crash in 2003, applied the practice to all Trijicon products since the company’s founding. However, the inscription of religious passages on products sold to and used by the government was contested by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

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The Marines’ M27 IAR standard-issue optic is a Trijicon ACOG variant (U.S. Marine Corps)

Despite the controversy, the military did not discontinue use of Trijicon optics. “This situation is not unlike the situation with U.S. currency,” said CENTCOM spokesman, Air Force Maj. John Redfield. “Are we going to stop using money because the bills have ‘In God We Trust’ on them? As long as the sights meet the combat needs of troops, they’ll continue to be used.”

Indeed, Trijicon sights were and continue to be regarded as top-tier optics. The British Ministry of Defence and New Zealand Special Air Service also purchased Trijicon sights without knowing about the Bible verses. Similarly, both nations continued to use the sights.

On January 22, 2010, just two days after the ABC News story broke, Trijicon announced that it would halt the practice of engraving Bible verses on optics sold to the government. The company also offered to provide modification kits to remove existing engravings on sights already delivered to the military. However, Trijicon products sold to the civilian market continue Bindon’s prescribed practice of including Bible verses in the product serial number. Given the optical nature of the products, all of the Bible verses engraved on Trijicon sights reference illumination.

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The ACOG is part of the Special Operations Peculiar MODification kit (U.S. Navy)

The controversy did not affect Trijicon’s standing as a government contractor. In 2020, Trijicon won a Marine Corps contract to supply its Variable Combat Optical Gunsight as the Corps’ new Squad Combat Optic.


Feature image: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michael Jefferson Estillomo

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Women who saw combat star in new play

It was less than two years ago — December 2015 — that the last barriers barring women from certain combat positions finally fell. Now, the new play “Bullet Catchers” envisions a not-so-distant future where women and men officially serve together in the same infantry unit.


“It’s been a 70-year journey for women to fully integrate into all branches, units, and occupations of the military,” said Lory Manning, who served in the Navy for 25 years, starting in the late 1960s.

For Manning, the armed forces offered a different path at a time where options were limited for women. “I did not want to be a schoolteacher and I wanted out of New Jersey,” she recalled by phone. “The Navy seemed like a good opportunity – for travel especially.”

Also read: This is how the military is integrating women

She explained that it has been a piecemeal process to lift the restrictions. For example, in 1992 women were allowed into combat aviation, said Manning, a fellow at the Service Women’s Action Network, known as SWAN. According to the organization’s website, there are “nearly 2.5 million service women in the US.”

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USMC photo by Sgt. Tyler L. Main

The nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the sheer number of women deployed during those two conflicts means women (and men) who were not in combat roles saw combat, she said.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, over “300,000 women have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq,” according to a SWAN report dated Feb. 1, 2017. More than 1,000 women were wounded, and 166 were killed during combat operations, the report noted.

“Now, even though they fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are officially allowed to fight,” Manning said.

Sandra W. Lee, who plays two roles in “Bullet Catchers,” saw combat in Iraq although she was assigned to civil affairs, she told Chelsea Now in a phone interview. Lee joined the army in response to 9/11, she said, and served from 2002 to 2010.

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Army photo by Cpl. Mariah Best

Civil affairs focuses broadly on rebuilding a country’s infrastructure, and in Iraq, Lee explained she worked on rebuilding schools. Her unit did train in combat, and Lee said she went along with another division as they conducted security sweeps and raids, and looked for weapons caches.

“We would fill in a lot,” she recalled. “We did a lot of missions that were not part of our job description. But being a solider, that is in the job description.”

Lee, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, said that while driving in the country, her convoy was hit four different times by roadside bombs. She said she has a brain injury that stems from those incidents. She was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PSTD. Lee said she was raped by another solider during her deployment.

Her experiences inform how she plays Até, which in the play is the goddess of war and a warrior. Being a woman in the military, Lee explained, there is a perception that females are not good enough and “you have to prove yourself in order to join their ranks.”

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DoD Photo by Spc. Crystal Davis

Due to her brain injury, Lee was somewhat apprehensive about contributing to the writing of the play but said she put her voice into Até, whose character was a “shell” when she joined the production last December.

“The nice thing about this process it was a group effort,” she said.

Indeed, the co-creators of “Bullet Catchers,” Maggie Moore and Julia Sears, sought input from the actors for the play, which was a collaborative endeavor. “It felt like a writer’s room for a lot of the process,” Sears, who is also the play’s director, said by phone.

Related: First 10 women graduate from Infantry Officer Course

The actors were given writing assignments, Sears said, such as writing the fairytale version of their character’s arc in the play, or being challenged to write five minutes of theater within a half hour. “They have so much ownership over what they’re making,” Sears said.

Moore and Sears were the final editors but the actors had a part in shaping their characters, like Lee with Até. Moore, who is also the play’s associate director, said the actors found their voices as writers. While Moore and Sears were honored to be the leaders, she said, the play belongs to the collective. “We all jumped off the cliff together,” Moore said by phone.

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Staff Sgt. April Spilde, a pallbearer with the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, is one of two women serving in the elite unit during ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo by Paul Bello.

Neither Moore nor Sears served in the military. The genesis of the project stems from when Moore was working at the Washington, DC-based Truman National Security Project in early 2015, she explained. Sears and Moore have been friends since college, and followed the news of whether the last restrictions on combat positions would be lifted. Sears thought the story of women fighting for recognition in combat would be an excellent story, Moore said.

Sears and Moore interviewed 35 veterans and current service members – an about even mix of women and men. The veterans had fought in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Sears said. The interview process took about three months, Sears said, with Moore and her then listening and transcribing the interviews. From there, they started to narrow down stories and characters, Sears said.

A bullet catcher is “army slang for an infantryman,” according to the play’s website, and Moore said, “It’s kind of a badge of honor to be a bullet catcher.”

Some women are going through infantry training right now, she said, and “we’re seeing the movement towards the world we built in the play becoming a reality.”

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USMC photo by Cpl. Tyler J. Bolken

“Bullet Catchers” follows the journey of “the first official mixed gender infantry unit in the US Army, from training to deployment,” according to the play’s website. Moore said it was important to highlight a diversity of experience and so the play’s characters run the gamut from private to lieutenant colonel.

Women in the Fight: 15 women who helped pave the way in the Army

Jessica Vera plays Maya de los Santos, who, in the play, is a lieutenant colonel and the first female commander of a forward operating base, Vera explained by phone. Vera described Maya as a leader, someone who not only sees the opportunity before her, but also the weight of that level of responsibility.

While Vera has no military experience, her father was an Army Ranger, her older brother was in the Army Cavalry and is currently serving in the Air Force. Growing up in a military household has informed how she plays Maya, she said.

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Sailors participating in the Riverine Combat Skills course prepare for a field training exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 24, 2012. Navy photo by Specialist Seaman Heather M. Paape

One of the play’s first scenes is Maya picking up her wife, Jordan, a civilian, and taking her over the threshold after getting married. Lee, the veteran, also plays Jordan in the play, and said Vera helped to shape Jordan’s character. While the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has been officially abandoned, Lee said, “There’s still a stigma. It depends on who your command is.”

On the other end of the military spectrum is character Joan Boudica, played by Emma Walton. Joan is a private and is brand new to the experience, Walton explained by phone. Joan is part of the reserves and is randomly picked for special training and is deployed, she said. “It’s a coming of age story for her,” Walton, who has no military experience, said.

Walton said women have been in the military for a long time – flying planes and protecting the country like men are. “We’re excited to show it,” she said. “The rest of America thinks that they’re nurses, they’re doing paperwork. That’s just not true.”

Sears, the director, said she hopes the play spurs a myriad of conversations for the audience, including a larger discussion of women in leadership roles. “We’re hoping that this story — as specific and nuanced [as it is] – can still have reverberations for woman and anyone who has tried to move the needle of gender integration in general,” she said.

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The soldier accused of ties with ISIS thinks the Moon landing was faked

A US soldier accused of supporting the Islamic State believed that Hitler was right, the moon landings were fake, and 9/11 was an inside job.


Army Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Erik Kang, arrested by an FBI SWAT team over the weekend after being accused of attempting to aid ISIS, was a noted conspiracy theorist, according to a soldier who knew him.

His former Army bunkmate from 2013, Dustin Lyles, told The Associated Press that he and Kang practiced martial arts together and discussed conspiracy theories, particularly the idea that the US staged the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Kang, who belongs to the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii and worked as an air traffic control operator, pledged allegiance to ISIS, and attempted to send classified and unclassified military documents to members of the terror group. He had no idea that these supposed members were actually undercover FBI agents.

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US District Court in Honolulu Image from Hawaii News Now.

Kang apparently told a confidential human source as recently as March that “Hitler was right, saying he believed in the mass killing of Jews,” according to court filings. He also said that America was the only terrorist organization in the world.

In addition to embracing conspiracy theories, Kang sought to provide support to ISIS in numerous ways, including wanting to provide combat training to help ISIS members.

Kang’s long history of strange statements and support for ISIS resulted in him losing his security clearance in 2012. For an unknown reason, his security clearance was reinstated in 2013 after he “complied with military requirements stemming from the investigation.” The Army finally referred Kang’s case to the FBI in 2016 for more serious investigation, which culminated in an arrest.

The Army declined to elaborate to The Daily Caller News Foundation on why Kang was permitted to regain his clearance after making pro-ISIS comments.

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Here’s your complete military guide to nutritional supplements

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(Photo: steadyhealth.com)


The total was $183.27. I happily submitted my credit card information and clicked “Submit.” As I anxiously awaited for my magical supplements to arrive I looked over the complex regimen. I could carry this printout around with me everywhere I went.

Thinking back to that moment in 2004, I realize now how uneducated I was about the supplement industry. Why did I buy all of that? Because the website I visited offered a free nutrition plan which conveniently included their supplements to help me achieve my goals. Now, a little over a decade later, with a medical degree under my belt, twenty fitness competitions, and countless nutrition clients I can tell you – supplements can be quite simple.

Below is a simple breakdown to follow based on your budget. Pick the category that fits you and then select the supplements that fit your goal.

(Note: I was not compensated in any way by the manufacturers of any products listed.)

Level 1 – THE BASICS

Multivitamin: Multivitamins might be obvious, but it’s a commonly missed basic. You should take a multi-vitamin to replace critical elements missing in your food. Some of the critical things I look for: one pill a day vs. two pills, Calcium at least 50 percent of the daily value, Vitamin D at least 800IU. I know the gummy version is very popular now and I don’t recommend these because of the added sugars and the cost per serving is much higher. I have also found they are lower in vitamin concentration. The brand isn’t too important. Average cost: $15 for 90 days

L-Glutamine: Glutamine is an alpha amino acid that’s essential for so many daily body processes such as protein synthesis (building muscle, muscle recovery) and getting rid of toxins via the kidney. I recommended 15 grams per day taken 3 different times during the day. If that’s too complicated for your schedule, then just take 5 grams when you wake up and 5 grams after your workout. L-glutamine is found naturally in dairy products and many proteins like beef, pork, chicken, fish, but not enough. Average cost: $20 for 30 days

Level 2 – COMMITTED WITH LIMITATIONS

Includes Level 1 supplements.

Whey Protein Powder: Whey protein is used to build muscle, help prevent muscle breakdown, and helps with recovery. Protein powder is not better than whole food protein but it is a good alternative for convenience. Whey is the best-studied protein powder. There are mixes of different kinds of proteins, but these aren’t well studied. It’s hard for me to believe they are better. (I like evidence.) I also do not use powder with claims supplements are added. It’s easy for supplements to be missing or cut short, but you will easily pay more than basic whey protein powder. My favorite brands are Optimum Nutrition, Metabolic Nutrition, Muscle Pharm, and BSN to name a few. Average cost: $35 for 45 days

Beta-alanine: Beta-alanine is a beta amino acid that helps with blood vessel dilatation, building muscle, muscle recovery, and increased performance. Studies have shown greater results when combined with creatine, but also by itself. There is not a problem with water retention. Most people will get results with 4-5 grams per day. I recommend splitting it so you take 2-2.5 grams 20 minutes before your workout and 2-2.5 grams immediately after your workout. If you notice a tingling feeling on your skin after taking it, but that is normal. You can take it with food or decrease how much you take so that sensation is tolerable or gone. Average cost: $30 for 60 days

Level 3 – NO BUDGET OPTION (Includes Level 1 and 2 supplements)

Creatine: Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid. It increases the amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the body which then can help in building muscle size by improving the body’s response to resistance exercise and increasing the maximal force from muscles. There are some people that report water retention but many people don’t experience this. Studies show about 20 grams per day is sufficient for benefits. I do not recommend the “loading phase” as the scientific findings on this are not convincing and you will run out of product faster. Results are even greater if taking beta-alanine. Average cost: $10 for 30 days

ATP Extreme: This product is actual ATP which is easily depleted during workouts. ATP supplementation will allow for increased endurance, stronger workouts, and as an effect better performance. Studies show an increase in muscle mass and strength. This supplement comes in the capsule form and everyone is a little different in how they should take it. I take 4 capsules 30 minutes before my workout – weight lifting or cardiovascular exercise. Cost: $49.95 for 30 day

Provide Gold Liquid Protein: This product is my favorite! This product is the only supplement I know of that medical professionals will actually use for their patients. Liquid protein is exactly what it sounds like. Liquid protein works to impact depleted protein stores . One “shot” is jam packed with amino acids and only 100 calories. There is a sugar-free version, as well. I split my shot and have half right before my workout and another half afterward. Cost: $46 for 60 days

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Simone is an Air Force Academy graduate, doctor, and fitness model. You can contact/follow her here: email: simone.maybin@gmail.com, Instagram: @simonemaybin, Snapchat: @simoneyroney, Facebook: Simone Maybin, or Twitter: @simonemaybin.

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